We’re so grateful that we found a smart and hard-working realtor (recommended by our smart and hard-working loan officer, Jessica Nicolella — to be spotlighted in a future story) to help us find our first house. If you’re wondering if it’s worth it to work with a realtor, this story is for you.
Sure, we looked at properties on websites like Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com. We also used tactics to look for off-market homes, like writing letters to the owners. We even boldly knocked on our neighbor’s door to ask him face-to-face if he was interested in selling us his house. So we know you can buy a house without involving a realtor…but we didn’t want to do that, especially on our first house.
Typically the real estate agents representing the buyer and seller split a commission of the home sales price. Considering how much work a good realtor should do for you — and all of the potential legal and/or financial nightmares that you should avoid by working with licensed professionals in this highly-regulated field —, their cut feels very fair and a valuable cost of investing in real estate. The total commission is usually 6% and paid by the seller, but it’s negotiable. Here are some of the helpful things that only a licensed pro like our realtor, Laura Gray could do for homebuyers like us:
- Some homes are sold directly on public websites, like Craigslist and the ones I mentioned above, or even with signs in the yard or newspaper ads. But the majority of homes for sale are listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and are only accessible through licensed real estate brokers and agents. Laura set up a search query of the massive MLS database of properties based on the type of home we were looking for: one in the suburbs west of Denver that hadn’t been updated in at least 15 years with an unfinished basement.
- She got us appointments to see all the homes listed on the MLS that we were interested in, even when Colorado’s public health regulations to slow the spread of COVID-19 prevented open houses and limited the length of time for home viewings. She listened closely to what type of property we were looking for, then organized a tour de force of 6 houses in our top-choice neighborhoods — 3 were within a ½ mile of each other! At the end of the day, we considered putting in offers on at least 3 of them that matched our criteria.
- Once we’d seen all 6 properties (in a blur of 15 minutes each, due to limited home viewing appointments during COVID-19), Laura explained to us the components of an offer so we could structure ours to be the most attractive in a highly competitive “best & final offer” situation in Colorado’s hot real estate market. She guided us to submit such a strong first offer that it was accepted in a multiple offer situation!
- One of the primary reasons we wanted to buy a house with a realtor was to ensure that the financial and legal aspects of the sale are completed properly. This is the most money we’ve ever spent! We trusted Laura and her team to handle all the paperwork and coordination, including with the title company and Jessica’s loan team for a smooth closing.
- We didn’t realize that Laura’s work for us didn’t stop once we were under contract. She arranged a slew of appointments, like finding a home inspector (see Stories # 5 & 6) and 2 sewer scope companies in our short inspection timeline.
- Finally, we know that we picked the right realtor to help us to start our real estate journey because Laura came to celebrate with us at our closing, even when another COVID-19 restriction only allowed her to be there at the end.
A friend recently complained that the realtor he used to buy his first home wasn’t worth the commission he was paid. I told him to fire his realtor and find one who works for him. We feel like Laura worked hard to find us exactly what we were looking for. As first-time homebuyers, we were looking at houses in the same price range as most other first-time buyers as well as investors in our very competitive home market in the Denver metro area. One key to our success in getting our first choice home is that Laura was highly responsive, even via text after hours and on weekends. She helped make the transaction go as smoothly as possible — and continues to support us by following these stories and referring her clients to us.